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Full text of "My country and my people"

THE   ART   OF    LIVING                    3*9
enthusiastically^ while the English eat apologetically. The Chinese national genius decidedly leans toward the French in the matter of feeding ourselves.
The danger of not taking food seriously and allowing it to degenerate into a slipshod business may be studied in the English national life. If they had known any taste for food their language would reveal it. The English language does not provide a word for cuisine: they call it just "cooking.'5 They have no proper word for chef: they just call him a cook. They do not speak about their menu, but know only what are called "dishes.5* And they have no word for gourmet: they just call him "Greedy Gut55 in their nursery rhymes. The truth is, the English do not admit that they have a stomach. No stomach is fit for conversation unless it happens to be "sick55 or "aching." The result is that while the Frenchman will talk about the cuisine of his chef with—what seems to the English mind—immodest gestures, the Englishman can hardly venture to talk about the "food35 of his "cook" without impairing the beauty of his language. When hard pressed by his French host he might be willing to mutter between his teeth that "that pudding is awfully good55 and there let the matter rest. Now if a pudding is good it is good for some definite reasons, and about these problems the Englishman does not bother himself. All the English are interested in is how to strengthen themselves against influenza, as with Bovril, and save the doctor's bills.
Now you cannot develop a national culinary art unless you are willing to discuss it and exchange your opinions on it. The first condition of learning how to eat is to talk about it. Only in a society wherein people of culture and refinement inquire after their cooks' health, instead of talking about the weather, can the art of cuisine be developed. No food is really enjoyed unless it is keenly anticipated, discussed, eaten and then commented upon. Preachers should not be afraid to condemn a bad steak from their pulpits and scholars should write essays on the culinary art as the Chinese scholars do. Long before we have any special food, we think about it, rotate it in our minds, anticipate it as a secret pleasure to be shared with some of our closest friends, and write notes about it in our invitation letters, like the following: "My nephew has just brought